As the monthly Holy Ghost Service of the Redeemed Christian Church of God spreads far and wide many more people are making the first Friday of every month a date for multiple reasons.
Lagos businessman Kehinde David is not a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) but among the treasures in his purse is a sheet of paper on which he has listed the themes of all the Holy Ghost Services of the church since 1998, when the programme which held in Lekki choked up traffic so heavily he had to walk all the way from the venue to his home in Surulere, Lagos. He never misses the service but it is needless to ask him why.
The Holy Ghost Service (HGS) is one of the major events which draw people from all over the world to the Redemption Camp in Lagos. The Arena, a new three-kilometre-by-three-kilometre auditorium at SÃ¬mÃ¡wÃ¡ is now the venue, having been moved from the one-kilometre-square auditorium at the Camp some 16 kilometres from Lagos, Nigeria. Live broadcasts are transmitted on TV, Radio and streamed over the Internet. Additionally, Special Holy Ghost services are held at different times in other locations around the world including the U.K. (where itâ€™s known as the Festival of Life), the U.S., in Asia, and on other continents.
The growth of the HGS is also illustrated by the difference between the early days when Pastor Adeboye laid hands on everybody at the service to bless them and now. This time if he tries it, it will take him several hours to do that at the Arena alone; and have many more people waiting.
To accommodate the growing numbers, the church has facilitated the operation of viewing centres around the country and across the world for people who are unable to make it to the Camp, which turns into an ocean of people from as early as 4pm on Fridays for the service that starts at 7pm. Surprisingly, even the one-kilometre-square auditorium, which has been prophesised to be a childrenâ€™s church soon, is now a viewing centre. And close as it is to The Arena, it hosts thousands of people during the Holy Ghost Services.
The wisdom of viewing centres
It would appear that the introduction of viewing centres was as visionary as the construction of the Arena. From 40 parishes, including the Headquarters parish, in 1981, RCCG has spread to over 196 countries, with over 32,000 parishes in Nigeria alone. There are at least 732 branches in the UK and Ireland. The church is still rapidly expanding in areas like Asia and the Pacific, including India and Pakistan, and the Middle East, where there are parishes in Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon and in all the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates.
How it started
If people like Mr. David find the need to attend the Holy Ghost Service regularly, Pastor Adeboye perhaps has the compelling need to attend all the services; and he has since it was birthed in 1986 as a birthday gift from God.
He tells the story in the book, Stories of Pastor E.A. Adeboye: In 1986, I was in London preparing the Sunday school booklet for the mission when I heard from God. He said, â€œSon, what do you want for your birthday?â€
I was shocked. The reason I was shocked was that I didnâ€™t know God was interested in my birthday; secondly, I didnâ€™t know He could be asking me about what I wanted as present.
So I said, â€œLord if that is you, please repeat the question.â€
He assured me it was Him and asked again what I wanted as a birthday present.
I replied, â€œWhat I want is that all my members will get miracles.â€
He asked, â€œIs thatâ€™s all?â€™
I replied, â€œThatâ€™s all I want.â€
Then He said, â€œIn that case when you get home, call them together and I will give them whatever they ask for.â€
I needed to call the service a name, so I asked Him.
And He said: â€œHoly Ghost Serviceâ€
What happened at the first Holy Ghost Service was wonderful. And when we finished, my people came to me to request that I consult God for the service to hold every year.
God granted the request.
But soon after that, members of the church suggested that I request for a monthly Holy Ghost Service. And that is why we have been holding it every month now.â€
The HGS started soon after, and in 1998, while visiting the Lekki area with some foreigners, the Lord told him to hold a service in the beach area and that became the historic Lekki â€™98. The theme of the event, which shook Lagos was appropriately â€œDivine Visitation.â€ The HGS moved to the Redemption Camp the following year.
Incidentally, Lekki â€™98 is partly the reason for Pastor Adeboyeâ€™s disarming, â€œyes, sir-yes, sirâ€ humility. He gives an account of that in the book: On his return to the Camp he was thanking God in the open between 2a.m. and 3a.m when God told him to bend down to draw a human figure in the sand. After that God told him to wipe out the figure, which he promptly did.
Then God warned him, â€œSon, if you ever forget who your boss is, I will wipe you out. Nobody will even remember you came to the world.â€ With that he says he smiles when people wonder how a man can be so successful and be so humble.
â€œWhen you allow pride to creep into your life, you know what you are asking for?â€ Pastor Adeboye asks: â€œTo be wiped out!â€
Fruits of the HGS
The Holy Ghost Service, which has almost become an inter-denominational service, is a multi-purpose event that benefits the church as it does worshippers, who testify in numbers to miracles, signs and wonders.
For example, at one of the services, Pastor Adeboye pronounced blessing on clothes each congregant wore and advised they be kept for special occasions. At last monthâ€™s service, a female Pastor from Ibadan testified to how she had used the skirt and blouse she wore that day to raise a dead person and heal the sick. Also, a 75-year-old man who was given three months to live by a London hospital testified; he was still alive ten year after he should have died.
For these reasons, Pastor Adeboyeâ€™s prophecies at the service, which he usually pauses his sermons to relay, are received with ovation. As soon as he pauses to say â€œThe Lord said,â€ the congregation gets excited in readiness for a prophecy; and when it is given it is received with jubilation and shouts of Amen. The reason for this reaction is in the testimonies.
Beyond his anointing and power, Pastor Adeboye is known for his truthfulness, which a recent case confirmed. As usual, when the prophecy alert came the congregation was eager for it, but when he said God has healed a woman with burning sensation in her private part, the Arena went quiet, at least from areas within my earshot.
Pastor Adeboye noticed that so he said, â€œWell whether you believe that or not, we will see.â€ Two services later, an elegant middle-aged lady, in a flowing gown, testified from the fearsome altar that the prophecy was meant for her and she had been truly healed. A similar testimony was given by another lady months later.
Many people have said the HGS, which keeps them close to God and away from sin, also recharges them spiritually.
The prayers during the service are evidently powerful. Prayers, led by Pastor Mrs. Folu Adeboye, are also said regularly for the country and its leaders.
Also great is the opportunity given to youths in the church to preach to the world. A large part of the June Holy Ghost Service, last week, was devoted to that. And Pastor Adeboye, proud of the future leaders of the church, confessed that the ministration of the youth pastor who represented the North was so powerful it brought tears to his eyes. He turned back to look at the pastor as he spoke â€“ a very moving moment.
Apart from the satisfaction of bringing joy to many homes through healing, baby boom for barren women, etc, Pastor Adeboye is overjoyed by the large number of people who give their lives to Christ at the HGS. Hundreds of people respond to the alter calls.
At the rate the HGS is growing, one will not be surprised to hear soon that the three-kilometre-by-three-kilometre auditorium requires extension for people who prefer the spiritual feel of the Arena to the television, live streaming on the internet or the viewing centres.
– Daniel is a journalist, poet and writer.